Sneak Preview Temporal Tome
Excerpt from Chapter 3 of Temporal Tome
Sequel to Cosmogonic Marbles …coming soon
There is no sure-fire way of getting Botolf-almost-Oxford students into a lecture. Many methods have been and are employed, creatively shall we say, by the teaching staff of the college over the years.
The Head of Megalithic Scrutiny, for example, resorted to ambushing his prey (students) in their dorm rooms, making sure to lock the doors, bar the windows and block the chimneys (in an operation that took as much time and effort as the D-day landings) before commencing on the first of his eighty-eight lectures on the Dullness of Geology to Post Ice-age Mankind in Northern Europe.
In 1868, a tired and bored Vice-Chancellor of Dragon Lore resorted to subliminal lecturing. Unfortunately the experiment wasn’t a success, but the late Vice-Chancellor is noted in the history books as the inventor of alphabetti-spaghetti.
The current Interim Professor of Greek Illogical Thought went even further in his pursuit of the academic impartation of knowledge. He locked a group of final year students in the college cellar with his notes, books and little to eat except a wheel of cheddar cheese and some stale bread. When he finally released his students, after several days, his expectation of thesis success turned to dismay as he read papers on: ‘The art of cheese making’, ‘How to avoid cannibalism in a tight spot’, ‘How not to avoid cannibalism in a tight spot’, and ‘Cheese, A live Culture and Nature’s substitute for friends.’ The Professor didn’t give many firsts that year.
This year’s crop of students were a poor lot, thought the Bursar as he watched the comings and goings of the college from the top of the grand staircase. There used to be Persian Princes among the student body, members of the Royal families of Europe (the ones who had thrones and the ones who were ‘between thrones’) and sons of noble professions: doctors, bishops, judges and ambassadors. Now, as the Bursar looked down from the balconyhe could pick out a pipe-fitter-welders’ son from Harrogate, a second cousin (twice removed) of that woman who had an affair with a Belgian Prince and two identical twins from Nepal who had actually applied to Oxford but in a paperwork mix up ended up in Botolf; after three years no one had managed to successfully explain the mistake to them.
They used to come to the College in hats, thought the Bursar as he spied one of his colleagues from the Department of Invisible Geographies making his way up the stairs and turning left through the ornate doorway of Botolf’s infamous library.
“Poor sod!” worded the Bursar.
The library at Botolf is a sight to behold; that is, if you beheld it from a safe distance, possibly through a telescope.
Among its millions of books packed like sardines onto the creaking shelves there is everything a new student would expect to find in an old college: medieval manuscripts, Guttenberg bibles and outdated anthropological studies which contained words such as ‘darkies’ and ‘wogs’ (these were not checked out very often). But Botolf’s library also has a strange assembly of tomes that cannot be found anywhere else in academia. There are a few copies of the Greek philosopher-poet Arncano’s thesis on One-thousand-and-one things to do with Earwax found in the world. The Gospel of Brian is unique to Botolf and the Vatican (who deny its existence). And the ninety-six volumes of the History of the Celts in Space, each volume weighing a quarter of a ton, are so bulky they had to be built into the foundations of the library wall and can only be read with a powerful X-ray machine. Other rare tomes, such as The Real Annals of Discovery byToeloff Toeloffsonson, are only to be found by excavating your way through the dimly lit narrow passages which have organically formed in the library’s less visited sections; this however can prove a risky business.
Professor Turner, Master of Invisible Geographies, was not a man to risk his life putting together a reading list for his senior students. He’d much rather risk their lives and many an Invisible Geography student has had to be rescued by a search party over the years because of the Professor’s zeal for rare manuscripts. On this fine Botolf morning Professor Turner was looking for a book which had (with good reason he presumed) not been sought for many years, certainly for decades if not centuries. It was far too dangerous to send even a senior student into the darkest reaches of the library, so dangerous in fact that the Chief Librarian refused to accompany him on the grounds of cowardice and he had to make the expedition alone.
“Bugger him anyway,” repeated Professor Turner over and over again under his breath as he delved off the main pathways of the library, leaving behind confused first year students as they searched for required readings, strapped to each other like mountaineers.
The book in question was one he and Professor Hancock (the late Head of Medieval Thought, who was in no condition to accompany him being displayed on a television screen) had been discussing over the last few days. It was one of the many supernatural tomes lost in the library’s unintelligible catalogue system and, if it could be found, he knew the safest place to keep it from now on would be sealed in a lead casket, covered in concrete and buried beneath the wine cellar of the college, or preferable beneath the wine cellar of another college.
Part I …Cosmogonic Marbles